Life and death are indissociable. Even though we are well aware of this fact, death, as a subject, is often repressed. Sooner or later, however, we must take leave from people we love. We must learn to live with death and grief.
A beloved wife, who succumbed to cancer, or a best friend, who lost his life in a car crash; a child, who died an untimely death, or a life partner, whose heart abruptly stopped beating. Dying, death, grief – they all can take very different forms.
Of course, all of us are aware that life, whether our own or that of a beloved person, will come to an end some day or other. However, just as with any other uncomfortable subject, we usually try not to think about it. In the western world, as opposed to earlier centuries or other cultures, death is not a part of our daily lives. Even though most people wish to die at home, a large majority of people dies in hospital or in an old-age home.
Dealing with grief
When we loose a cherished person, hardly anything can bring us comfort. Admittedly, the loss of a friend who died after a long and painful illness can bring a feeling of relief. Nevertheless, even in such circumstances, grief is a constant companion. We must learn to deal with grief, but we must also learn to cope with and overcome loss, in order to move on with life.
The phases of grief
Usually, grief takes place over various phases. Prof. Verena Kast, president of the C.G. Jung in Küsnacht (Switzerland) since 2014, identifies four phases of grief. These theories lean on the five phases of grief processes described by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in 1969.
Denial and emotions
The first phase is characterized by the denial of what has taken place. The mourner is in a state of shock and cannot accept the loss. This phase can last a few days or a few weeks, and can last longer if the death was unexpected.
In a following phase, emotion can take the upper hand. Grief and sadness are experienced, but also anger, aggression, anxiety, jealousy, or despair. The intensity of the feelings is in direct relation to the nature of the relationship lived by the deceased and the mourner.
Letting go and accepting
The third phase is characterized by the process of letting go. Although the deceased is still present everywhere in the everyday life, confrontation with reality makes us realize that the beloved one is no more there. The deceased person may become an inner friend, with whom we carry on an inner dialogue. With time, sadness and grief diminish.
In the fourth phase, the mourner finally finds his way “back to life”, step by step. He accepts the loss of a dear friend, learn to appreciate small things again, develop new interests or begin an activity he has long wished to do.
Every body grieves differently
These phases and processes need time. One needs to go through the period of grief and do it consciously. Ultimately, grief does not run according to a fixed plan. Each person copes with grief in a different way, and not every one suffers equally from the loss of a beloved person. Some people suffer very deeply while others retrieve themselves and cannot pull themselves out of this downward spiral. Mourning people often need professional help, or the help of a friend or relative, while some others deal with it on their own.
The grieving process takes place very individually. What is important is to go through it actively. Yorick Spiegel, a German theologian, identifies various tasks that need to be addressed by the mourning person:
• Overcoming grief
• Accepting the reality
• Embracing life
• Expressing difficult feelings and wishes
• Assessing the loss
• Incorporating the deceased
• Taking the chance to re-orientation
In the day-to-day life, the following measures can help to process the loss of a beloved person:
• Stay in touch with friends and acquaintances
• Accept assistance
• Talk about one’s feelings, whether in private or in a group
• Express pain and other feelings, whether by painting, drawing, etc.
• Go through the process of grieving with awareness
• Not suppress feelings
• Pursue interests, or take on a new activity
• Not neglecting one’s health, eating healthily, taking walks, etc.
"Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o-er wrought heart and bids it break."
Text: Patrick Gunti – 05/2015
Translation: MyH – 05/2015
Photos: Pixabay / pixelio.de